My little brown dog Monroe is celebrating his 16th birthday this month.
That makes him something like 100 in human years.
He’s had several health issues lately but in many ways, he’s still the same rescue pup the kids and I picked out those many years ago. Back then, he was a quiet, intelligent little creature with big soulful brown eyes. If we had to get a pup – and the kids were insistent – he was just the one I wanted.
These days, he tires quickly, his eyes are covered with cataracts and his muzzle is white. He can’t hear it thunder. But his intelligence and loyalty are as strong as ever.
We named him after a President, but called him Monnie or Monk. He has the head and bark of a German shepherd, the front legs of a Corgi, a crooked tail (because I shut the car door on it) and the heart of a lion. He has a protective streak a mile wide, although he has mellowed over the years. He limps for sympathy. He knows things – things a partially blind and deaf dog shouldn’t know.
The kids, when they were younger, babied him and were comforted by him. He idolized my daughter Amanda and bickered with my son Daniel. As they grew older, he watched TV with them, scrutinized their friends and became a quiet companion when they wanted to sit and think.
He liked to visit my parents and once developed a weight problem because of all the scraps they slipped him under the table. He was one of the few animals my dad permitted inside his house.
Amanda, a kind-hearted and sentimental soul, once asked me, with tear-filled eyes: “Why does Monnie try so hard to be good?”
Sometimes a dog is just a dog – and sometimes it’s something more. I’ve wondered often if Monroe became that “something more” because of the way he was treated – or if the treatment he received was due to that “something” we saw in him from the very first.
I guess the same could be said of people.
Monroe has been around almost as long as I was married to my first husband – and has been ever so much more faithful. He has sorrowed with me as my children left home and mourned with me when my parents and my son died.
Truth be told, I do not think I understand loss any more than Monroe does. You don’t expect the family pet to outlive one of your children.
Monroe doesn’t get excited when the grandkids visit, but he is very interested in the crumbs they often drop. When he gets grumbly, my 3-year-old granddaughter Claire puts her finger to her lips and shushes him. He doesn’t hear her, but it makes Claire feel better.
Monroe tolerates my husband Bud – and vice versa. Despite a rocky start, and a lot of patience on Bud’s part, they’ve managed to bond in a minimal way. They have agreed to disagree – and neither understands what I see in the other one.
Secretly, I think, Bud admires him for putting up with me all these years.
I admit it – I am downright sentimental about that old hound. I love to hear those gnarly-old toenails clicking across the kitchen floor.
Through many quirks of fate, we could have been saddled with a lesser animal, never knowing any better.
I am honored to be part of his family.